By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Veteran Aaron Bartal has been fundraising and installing solar panels, in phases, atop the Wyandotte Veteran of Foreign Wars building for several years to help ensure its financial survival.
When he first applied his financial expertise to Post 1136’s operations in 2017, he soon learned that it spent $2,000 a month — one-third of its monthly expenses — on its electrical bill.
Bartal knew that solar panels could drastically reduce this cost, but the challenge was how to fund the investment.
“I had Cresit Energy (of Wyandotte) come out and quote us a solar panel system that would bring the monthly electric bill down to about $200 a month,” he said. “The cost of the system would be $100,000, and the possibility that the post could raise the money on its own while still paying its operating costs was unlikely.”
At the same time, Bartal was planning the Fallen Soldier 5K walk and run to raise money to honor veterans and fallen soldiers.
“I knew the money wouldn’t be able to help those veterans who are deceased,” he said. “However, the thought came to mind that our fallen wouldn’t want to see their living comrades struggle, and that maybe the right thing to do would be to take the proceeds of the event and give it to veteran non-profit groups Downriver.”
Bartal said he was concerned that Wyandotte VFW couldn’t survive much longer with its high overhead costs, so he decided to dedicate the 2019 Running to Honor proceeds to the post, at 633 Ford Ave.
In 2019, Bartal donated $20,460 to the post, and purchased the first of three phases of solar panels.
In 2020, he donated $15,152 from the run, along with donations from other supporters, including VFW Post 78 in Romulus.
“In 2021, I am hoping to raise the remaining $80,000 needed for the solar panels, as well as some roof replacement that needs to be done,” he said. “Whether it takes one year or 10 years to raise the remaining $80,000, I am dedicated to seeing this the project through to completion.”
Bartal said that, since leaving the military, he has dedicated his life to keeping the memory of fallen soldiers and veterans alive.
“That is the commitment that I made to my fellow veterans,” he said. “When you say that you are going to do something, failure is not an option.”